My mom is a bath taker. I think the bathtub became her place of refuge when my sister and I were young. She even mastered the art of reading a book while bathing without getting the book wet. I always marveled at this. She likes her baths extra hot. I marvel at this too.
She used Avon Skin So Soft bath oil and that scent is forever linked to her in my mind. It left her skin silky and the tub slick with oil such that we had to be careful not to slip.
I wasn’t ever much of a bath taker until last year when I was hit with six months of tonsillitis (and a tonsillectomy). In that time of great discomfort nothing soothed me like being submerged in hot water.
In that time, where I’d take maybe two or three baths a day, I fell in love with this ritual.
In speaking to my landlady one day she told me that if you’re going to have rental property and you want female tenants that you’d better have a bathtub.
When I lived with roommates I never took baths as the communal shower never felt private, even when I was alone in it or clean enough, even when I scrubbed it.
In my current home I have a peach bath tub surrounded by pink tiles from the 50′s. In my boyfriends place is a newer white tub that gets professional cleaned once a month. Neither allow for much neck support in a reclined position, but they’re big enough and deep enough.
My advice for bathing:
Before you get in, shut the door to the bathroom so the steam is captured. Lay out a fluffy, clean towel (a bath sheet if you have one) where you can reach it and put a bath mat down. Light a candle. Using a cup or recycled yogurt container, rinse out the tub. It need not be hotel-perfect, just free of stray hairs and such.
Plug the drain and begin the fill. Always a touch hotter than is comfortable. It will cool. Add any bath oil, salts, or bubbles that you like. Or nothing at all. Water is enough.
Turn the lights out and get in.
Pull the shower curtain closed if you can and let the water run until it’s just high enough to cover your ears, but not your face when you lay supine. Lay back. Listen to your own heart beat.
Notice how you no longer know what ‘cold to the bone’ even means.
Stay there. Release any urge to get our and be productive.
Receive. Soak. Shut the world out.
You might find yourself craving a mother. A mother to wrap in that towel after you’ve stayed in long enough. A mother to comb out your hair and prepare some warm milk. A mother to perch on the edge of the tub and listen as your uncertainties get washed away. You can be this mother.
Never get out before your fingers have turned to wrinkled prunes.
Never restrict yourself to bathing only after sundown or in winter.
On occasion listen to music or watch a movie simultaneously.
It’s quiet delightful to recline in extra hot water on a lazy brisk afternoon and watch whatever it is that makes you giggle.
Exfoliate. With scrub or pumice, let go of what’s old and dead.
Shave your legs only ever for yourself.
Make a point to come here often, especially when you are tired, contemplative, questioning, fried, chilled, afraid, melancholy, or dirty.
Most importantly though: never live anywhere without a bathtub. That would be like losing god’s phone number.
Last year my boyfriend declared February to be Pleasuary.
Lucky me, he has declared this to be an annual tradition.
Pleasuary, if it’s not clear from it’s name, is an entire month dedicated to pleasure.
There’s no real reason this needs to take place during February, although Pluly or Pleptember just doesn’t sound nearly as fun.
If you’re inspired to join me in celebrating Pleasuary here are a few pointers:
Giving vs Receiving
Pleasuary is perfect for those in a relationship where one person tends to be the giver and the other tends to be the receiver. For heterosexual couples, it is often the woman who tends to give and the man who tends to receive. If you relate to this dynamic, allow yourself to shift the natural order things for the month. Wear a new groove.
Try this: Make a pact. For the month of Pleasuary your job is to receive. Their job is to give. Rest into it. It might feel awkward. It will most certainly feel good.
If you’re single, decide that you’re going up the pleasure you give yourself and instead of feeling guilty about this, set the intention to truly receive what is given.
Feeling Safe vs Feeling Alive
Feeling good comes from so many different sources and there are infinite shades of good feelings. It’s important to differentiate between the good feelings that come from being comforted and the good feelings that can come from being outside our comfort zone. Of course, we need a base line of feeling safe if we’re to dip our toe in more enlivening waters, but there is much pleasure to be experienced outside of our bubble of safety.
Try this: In your journal, brainstorm two lists: things that make you feel comforted and safe AND things that make you feel ecstatic, alive, and deeply pleasured. Then circle a few from each side that you want to make happen this month.
Quality and Quantity
This month is about both, quantity and quality. It’s about making pleasure part of the everyday. Upping the pleasure at breakfast. Upping the pleasure in our work. Upping the pleasure in the mundane and the extraordinary.
Try this: Make a list of 30 (or more) ways you want to receive pleasure and be about checking them off the list. Of course, spontaneity is also part of this so don’t let a checklist keep you from new and sudden bursts of pleasure receiving.
In terms of quality of pleasure, this is the result of deep and open presence. Even thirty seconds of pleasure can be knee shaking if we are truly present. High quality pleasure is like fine cheese or good chocolate, the experience is so much more satisfying. A little goes a long way when we allow ourselves to drop into receiving and the sensations of feeling good.
Try this: Set aside time to turn off all electronics. Tune into your body. Pleasuary is an adventure of discovering what exactly gives you pleasure. And, it’s important to know that you don’t have to know right now. In fact, you most certainly don’t know all the ways that you can experience pleasure. Play a sort of ‘Marco Polo’ pleasure game where simply allowing yourself (and your partner) to go towards what’s ‘warm’ and away from what’s ‘cold’.
Sense-uality & Indulgence
Pleasuary is not wholly about knocking boots. Pleasuary is about attunement of the senses to good feelings and expanding our capacity for pleasure.
Try this: List all the ways you might experience pleasure through your different five senses then attempt to saturate yourself with pleasure from all of these entry points.
The definition of indulge is to “allow oneself the experience of pleasure.” On that note, if you’re game for the Pleasuary, go indulge! Soak it in. Green light your enjoyment. Hand out the permission slips. Decide to taste, smell, touch, listen, and see it fully.
If you’re wanting more pleasure and enjoyed this post you can read more of my thoughts on feeling good in P is for Pleasure.
Sugar, specifically white refined sugar, has gotten a bad rap.
While I typically abide by a “to each their own” approach to food, it seems that lately there has been a deluge of bloggers ‘coming out’ about their sugar-free lifestyle.
To many this seems logical and saintly. To me this is yet another extreme shift of the dietary pendulum that leaves people swinging between restriction and over consumption, more obsessed with food and less at ease in life
Out of a desire to offer a different perspective and perhaps provide a middle path, I bring you my thoughts on the matter. This post isn’t for the nutrition police who have, for the time being, made up their mind. This is for those of you lost in the middle of a world that plies you with sugary sodas and tells you it’s poison at the same time.
Here are six thoughtful ‘spoonfuls’:
Thoughtful Spoonful #1 A sweet role model on the sweet middle path…
Henry Ware. “Hal” to most. Grandpa, or more often Bapa, to me.
At 91, my grandfather lives alone, remains active, and, for his age, is very healthy. He’s also eaten dessert nearly everyday of his life. [Cue needle scratch]
When I hear of people saying sugar is poison I simply call him up and reminisce about the lemon meringue pie I used to bake with my grandmother. It was so delicious.
Thoughtful Spoonful # 2: When there is nothing to rebel against…
In my experience, when I have something to rebel against, I rebel. When I have nothing to rebel against, I’m free and travelling an easeful middle path. A no-sugar rule would, and has, in my more restrictive days, made me straight-up bonkers. Being a freedom-junkie is what has kept me from being a sugar-junkie.
Thoughtful Spoonful #3: Play food has a place…
Here’s an excerpt from a favorite book of mine, Intuitive Eating:
“Sometimes you have a desire for food that has no nutritionally redemptive powers. We call this food play food. We prefer this term to one of the most commonly used terms to describe what’s considered unhealthy foods–junk food. The term junk food implies that there is no intrinsic value in this food–in fact, that it probably should be thrown in the garbage can. But we feel that this thinking is unwarranted. There are times when a piece of red velvet cake or a stick of licorice is just the food that will satisfy your taste buds. And eating these types of foods doesn’t mean you are an unhealthy eater.”
I have often found important, health-promoting, value in foods with little nutritional value.
Thoughtful Spoonful #4: Every body is wise…
I trust my body implicitly. This is a hard won fact. Most of the time my body, and most well-fed, well-pleasured bodies, don’t crave tons of sugar. Carbohydrates? Yes. My body and brain love carbohydrates. They keep me full, happy, functioning.
With my body leading the way I haven’t been lead straight to the firey hell of Candy Land…just to a sweet middle path.
Thoughtful Spoonful #5: The secret ingredient…
Food is way more than just a sum of it’s macro and micronutrients. Michael Pollan calls this misconception nutritionism. The truth is that there are intangibles in food that we can’t quantify. For example, why does, for some of us, our mother’s version of a dish taste so much better than our own? The answer is something we can’t see under a microscope or write into a recipe. Food, if we pay attention, has (or doesn’t have) soul to it. A factor often ignored when we eliminate whole categories of food.
Thoughtful Spoonful #6: Pleasure as a food group…
Speaking of intangibles in food. I’ve found that just like I can eat a diet deficient in fat or Vitamin C, I can be deficient in pleasure. I’ve learned to treat pleasure like a food group with a hearty dose of daily servings. This is how I feel most well-fed and this sometimes includes sugar.
Thoughtful Spoonful #6: We’re all moderators…
Some people argue that people can be divided into moderators and abstainers – people who have just a little of something and people who can’t. I balk at this argument.
In my experience, an inability to “have just a little” of something is a result of the pendulum swing that occurs for everyone where there is some sort of psychological belief that the item is scarce (“Remember, you only get to eat this when you’re on vacation”) or shouldn’t be eaten (“Good thing no one is here to see you stuffing your face with this naughty food”). When we truly feel free to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, in any quantity we want we naturally find that we don’t overdo much. In my experience, overdoing is a result of compensation for some form of restriction. Moderation is the result of being free and deeply trusting oneself.
Thoughtful Spoonful #6: Information overload…
Lest you think I’m clueless about nutrition and sugar’s effect on our bodies, rest assured that I know my omega-3’s from my omega-6s. At the height of my own eating disorder I was a walking nutritional encyclopedia. I also spent three years spent earning my master’s degree in holistic health education where I studied everything from the USDA guidelines to Ayurvedic eating approaches; raw food to the Weston A. Price approach; Chinese medicine to eco-political food systems.
In the end, I believe we suffer from a dangerous mix of information overload, food paranoia, and body disconnection.
I don’t want to live a life without sugar. I’m all for taking into account what my body and our planet need in order to be healthy, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my mental health for it. I also think the answer is always somewhere in shades of gray, not in the black and white approach of forgoing sugar all together. Turns out I don’t have to. Thank goodness.
So this is the path I have chosen: turn down the noise, ignore fads of the moment, aim for a middle path (all things in moderation, including moderation), restrict nothing, listen to my body, pay attention to the seasons and where my food comes from, and deeply enjoy sweet foods when I want them.
Like clockwork, on the full moon, I have insomnia.
This past week when the sky was aglow and the lunar calendar was turning over a page I had an urge to listen to spoken word poetry.
From about two a.m. to five I drank up some of the most stirring orations I’ve ever heard. I love this slam-ing medium of communication. It feels like a river that runs below our surface of striving. When a spoken word poet hits their flow the performance piece fades away and it’s just raw, rolling emotive breath and sound.
Here are a group of talented, brave poetic women just saying it. Perhaps it’ll keep you company during your next moon-lit awakening.
Whoa line: “…still hoping that the mortician finds us fuckable and attractive…”
Whoa line: “…deny myself the right to be shown myself…”
Whoa line: “…Eve was made naked, no makeup, no weave…”
Whoa line: “…The body is not to be prayed for, it’s to be prayed to…”
Whoa line: “…’cause there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.”
Whoa line: “Dear Cosmo: Fuck you! I will not take your sex tips on how to please a man you do not think my body will ever be worthy of.”
Whoa line: “I have been taught to grow in.”
Whoa line: “…women who will prowl 30 stores in six malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy”
Whoa line: “When they call you full of yourself”, say, “Yes.”
Whoa line: ”…Van Gogh’s irregularities outweigh clean lines and clarity…”
Whoa line: “…Where are the words for the rest of me?”
Whoa line: “…It’s terrifying to have had to learn first not who I was but how I was seen…”
Let this brilliant drawing from Kristin Noelle be an invitation to turn your seeking inward–to listen to your own inner call of where to go next.
Kristin Noelle is a Los Angeles-based illustrator. She creates soulful art that fosters a worldview of trust. Find her at www.kristinnoelle.com and be sure to check out Blessings - a free, 10-day series of inspired, illustrated blessings.
As a child, if I couldn’t be assured that I’d do something right the first time, I didn’t even want to try at all. The result of this fearful stance was that I didn’t learn to swim (until I nearly drowned and my parents insisted) or to ride a bike (I’m still working on this).
What I’m talking about is the resistance we feel to being less-than-masterful at anything. We loathe performing awkwardly, even though this is a precursor to doing anything more gracefully.
Embracing our inner awkward toddler crucial if we’re to find our way to being well-fed. Like toddlers learning to walk, this is the two-step we must do: Toddle forward. Trip. Stand up. Toddle some more. Go splat on the floor. Get up. Toddle again.
Towards the end of 2013 I looked around my life and saw that everything was fine.
Fine is good.
Fine is important if we’re to function in the world.
But fine is not enough.
Feeling fine isn’t the same as feeling alive or particularly satiated. Fine is just fine.
What I know: the only way through to what’s really good in life is to embrace being awkward for at least a time.
In the spirit of embracing more of this energy in my life I’ve started back attending Laurie Wagner’s brilliant Wild Writing classes wherein we instructed to write poorly, pen to paper, and then share it with the group. It’s awkward strength training at it’s best.
This Sunday I’m attending my first 5Rhythms practice where for two hours I’ll move my often-less-than-coordinated body to the music amidst a crowd of strangers. I’m not sure if it will be a practice in managing my inner critic or the holiest fun I’ve had in my life–or both. I want to find out.
What you and I have in common is a hunger to feel alive. To feel more than fine. This I know.
As a little girl, my fear of being criticized trumped my hunger to feel alive, to have fun, to ride a bike, or to swim in the lake.
As a grown women, though, I’ve learned that external sources of criticism don’t matter and that I can soften around my own.
As a grown women, I’ve learned that being awkward is just one exhilarating step toward being well-fed.
It’s an unexpected contradiction that after a month of making over my home – purging, deep cleaning, organizing, painting, new furniture – that the theme for January would appear to be: messy.
Now messy isn’t my word for the year, I’ll get to that in a minute, but it does feel like the word for right now. In order to find my groove I need to splash a little in the mud. I need to play a little more. Write more shitty first drafts. Dance a bit more awkwardly.
This morning my boyfriend told me he dreamt that I was standing naked in a house and all the walls disappeared and I was just standing there naked. The house was on a busy street and everyone could see me. In his dream I wasn’t concerned, embarrassed, or rushing to cover up. While there won’t be any nude photos to kick of the year, I like the sentiment of this vision: get more naked.
We’re all so practiced at wearing masked. We know how to please people, wow to show them what they want to see and hide what we fear might bring rejection. Your good at it. I’m good at it. I’m also good at taking off the masks. It’s a practice.
And it’s through this practice that I’ve come to know that bearing oneself just a bit more isn’t something we master. New masks are always itching to be put on. It’s just too easy to edit what’s real out of the picture. Yet when we do this–when I do this–what follows is always a longing to be seen, connected, heard, and free.
So in the spirit of taking off the mask and getting messy I’m ready to share my word for the year. It seemed fitting then to make an honest, unpolished, unrehearsed, unscripted, make-up free-in-my-pajamas-while-having-the-flu video.
A guest post written by Teryll Sacks
When I received the invitation to write a guest post for Rachel’s blog, I was honored and excited! It was an opportunity to blog again and to write about something other than cooking and recipes.
And then, I read the first two guest blog posts on Rachel’s site and immediately I said out loud, “Who the fill-in-the-blank am I? What the fill-in-the-blank do I have to say?” I don’t teach soulful e-courses, or write inspiring books and I haven’t been featured on any well-known websites or media outlets. The “unworthy gremlins” emerged from their mousetraps and I started to panic. The “perfection gremlins” arrived uninvited and began gnawing at my anxious heart. I remembered two things that Rachel said about our inner critics at the last Retreatshop I attended: that when we listen to them (the inner critics), we play it safe and that the inner critics are often loudest around the things that matter most to us. And I don’t want to end 2013, playing it safe.
So here I am – several deep breaths later, having scratched my original idea and taking a chance on something a wee bit personal. When I attended the Wise Body, Wise Hungers retreat in September, I was really keen on connection. I deeply desired to connect with other women, but more importantly to connect with myself and my body.
During the retreat Rachel led us through a guided imagery session focused around one hunger that we were playing with for the weekend (initially I was tossing around the idea of playing with a hunger to be seen/heard). After that guided imagery, Rachel asked us some potent questions around the experience and we spent some time journaling. While journaling, I discovered that the hunger I was playing with was a secondary hunger and that the primary hunger was really about knowing that I am enough and that I am worthy. Tears were streaming down my face as I wrote the “story” behind the belief that I wasn’t good enough, worthy or that I was too much. I physically felt my chest tighten and my throat nearly close up as I was telling the truth (it still blows me away how the body knows, feels and reveals what is really going on inside of us, we just need to be still and listen). And the truth is for quite some time, I’ve “reined” it in, I’ve played it safe.
Later that day, the amazing Anna Guest-Jelley (our fearless curvy yoga leader) led us through our afternoon yoga session. While reclining in shivasana (one of my most favorite poses), Anna invited us to listen, not just to the physical signs and sounds around us, but to listen within. I felt the cool breeze across my face; I felt the soft rays of sunshine peering through the windows onto my body; and I heard the delicate song of a few birds fluttering nearby. It was ever so slight, but I heard and felt my body tell me, “you are enough, there’s nothing you need to say or do, nothing to prove, you are enough”. It was a powerful experience, it held so much joy and I remember sharing with Rachel and Anna that I finally “got it”. It was a sacred reunion of body, mind and spirit. Shortly after that experience, I wrote a poem and in the spirit of not playing it safe, I want to share it with you:
I am enough.
I am not too much or too little.
I am enough just as I am.
In this body.
In this vessel of love, kindness and grace.
There is nothing I can do or say that will change it – I am enough.
I was born enough.
I will die enough.
There’s enough space to hold me.
There’s enough space to hold you.
There’s enough space to hold each other in this beautiful mess called life.
My prayer and hope for us all is that we turn down the dial on those gremlins (aka the inner critics) and allow our hungers to step into the spotlight. Our hungers are wise and as Rachel always says they are a compass for what is needed right now. May the holidays bring you ease, rest, joy and love.
By day Teryll Sacks is a paralegal, by night a devoted foodie, curvy yogi and adventure seeker. Though she has taken a year-long sabbatical from her blog, Madame Munchies, you can still check it out for recipes and other antidotes about cooking and life.
A guest post by Jill Salahub
A Bodhisattva is an “enlightened being,” having an open, awake heart motivated by deep compassion.
One of the origin stories of Bodhisattva is that she was a woman of noble standing who at the moment of her death heard someone crying. She was supposed to be headed straight for Nirvana, a state of perfect peace and happiness, but because she was so touched by the pain of that one being, she instead vowed to be reborn into the human realm as many times as it would take until there was no one left suffering.
In some Buddhist practice lineages, one can take a Bodhisattva vow, committing to that same path. The version that the Dalai Lama often uses when facilitating a vow ceremony ends with:
As long as space remains,
As long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.
We understandably may be reluctant to offer that level of commitment. We might not all experience that same depth of conviction. However, the way of the Bodhisattva is something we can all aspire to – it is simply this: to ease suffering, in ourselves and in the world.
We all just want to be happy and safe, to be free from suffering. It is the one thing we have in common with every other being, the thing that motivates everything we do.
We all have the ability to ease suffering. In individual moments and in small ways, we can be of benefit. Sometimes easing suffering is a spontaneous kind act. It can be as simple as holding the door open for someone or saying hello while looking directly into their eyes. We run into these opportunities multiple times a day.
For example, the other day I was at the grocery store, and there was a woman with full cart wandering the parking lot. She had a worried look on her face and as she got closer to me, I heard a car horn beep behind me and saw that she was repeatedly clicking her keyless entry remote. I realized she couldn’t remember where her car was, and that she was clicking the remote so the car horn would go off, hoping that would help her locate it. As I passed her, I said, “I heard it go off just back there.” Her face immediately relaxed, she smiled and said, “Thank you.” It was the simplest of things, but that small kindness I offered gave her a moment of relief, calmed her anxiety, eased her suffering.
The magic of such a moment goes beyond offering respite to another, because after our interaction I felt better too. To help someone else reminds us that we are connected, that we are not alone, and that things are workable. As Ram Dass says, “we are all just walking each other home.”
When we are suffering — feeling left out, depressed or sad, lonely or lost — we can ease our situation by becoming the love that we are missing, by offering love to ourselves or others. Anytime we follow the call of love, we are walking the path of the Bodhisattva.
While there is much about practicing the way of the Bodhisattva that is easy, it also requires some measure of responsibility and wisdom. We need to be sure that we are fully prepared to help, and that we are truly helping.
It’s common to confuse the way of the Bodhisattva with being solely focused on the wellbeing of others, of serving their needs and easing their suffering, but as Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” When being kind, practicing compassion, we must remember to include ourselves in that equation. We need care, nurturing and soothing as much as anyone. And this self-care, self-love, self-compassion only serves to fuel the way of the Bodhisattva, by ensuring that we are well and strong so that we can be of benefit, putting on our own oxygen masks before we help someone else with theirs.
It’s also easy when walking the path of the Bodhisattva to fall prey to “idiot compassion.” Pema Chödrön defines it this way:
It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering. Basically, you’re not giving them what they need. You’re trying to get away from your feeling of I can’t bear to see them suffering.
Anyone who has experience with an addict or a toddler understands how this goes, how we sometimes give in to the demands of someone suffering in the moment in a way that doesn’t help at all in the long run. To give an addict drugs or money for drugs doesn’t actually ease the suffering generated by their addiction, but rather continues the cycle. In the same way, giving in to the demands of a small child who might be overwhelmed or tired or hungry, who is having a tantrum and demanding candy or a toy at the checkout line in the grocery store, doesn’t actually help them to learn to deal with their experience, and usually doesn’t address the real, underlying need. And yet, it can be so tempting in those situations to give in to the impulse of the moment and thus avoid any immediate discomfort.
Sometimes, we get confused and our actions actually end up generating suffering, and some beings can get caught up in this delusion their whole lives. When we are trying to help them, it can be hard to accept that our kindness and generosity, our genuine attempts to help may not be met with equal kindness or results. And yet, we must remember as Anaïs Nin said, “You cannot save people. You can only love them.”
I would like to invite you to join me in trying out this practice, the way of the Bodhisattva. It really is as simple as asking yourself, “Where do I see suffering?” and then, “Is there anything I can do to ease this suffering?” If you don’t think you can ease the suffering, at the very least do what you can to not generate more suffering, or as the Dalai Lama says, “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
Place your attention on where there is suffering, and focus your effort on attempting to ease it. Try it and see if you don’t feel the tiniest bit better, if you don’t feel happier, safer. Go ahead. I dare you.
Jill Salahub is an Introvert, INFJ, Highly Sensitive Person, Scorpio, and Four on the Enneagram – in other words, a passionate mess. She’s a wholehearted practitioner of writing, yoga, meditation, and dog (she’s been rescued by three, so far). Her superpowers are generosity and gentleness, and she loves to laugh. Her mission is to ease suffering, in herself and the world. Jill writes about the tenderness and the terror, the beauty and the brutality of life, and of her efforts to keep her heart open through it all on her blog, A Thousand Shades of Gray.